Cairo (AsiaNews) - About 100 Christian families have fled from the village of Dahshur (Giza), 40 km south of Cairo after recent violence between the Coptic and Muslim communities. Yesterday, a group of Muslims set fire to several Christian homes and shops and even tried to set fire to the local church. The police intervened with tear gas. In the clashes 16 people were injured, including 10 officers. The group was returning from the funeral of a Muslim who died during a brawl with some Christians took place on July 27. Sources from Giza Diocese report that Coptic families have now left the village for fear of new attacks. The case of Dahshour is the first serious incident of violence between Christians and Muslims since the election of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
The tensions erupted last July 27. The pastor of the parish Mari Gerges (Saint George) in Dahshur, Fr. Takla, says that on that day, Ahmed Ramadan went to Sameh Sami's laundrette (makwagi), to collect his shirts. One short had been accidently burned. At Ahmad's protest, Sameh offered to pay for it and the two made an appointment to meet that evening after iftar meal that breaks the daily fast. Ahmed arrived that the evening, but not alone. He was accompanied by several hundred people, armed with knives, guns and Molotov cocktails.
Sameh closed his shop and ran into his house for protection, where his father and brother were. The attackers fired shots and launched Molotov cocktails. One of these failed to explode, Sameh through it back at his attackers. Unfortunately it exploded near Mo'adh Hasaballah, who was badly burned. He was brought to a hospital in Cairo.
The crowd went wild. They attacked the family (father and two children) and another Christian, and burned the houses of Christians. Firefighters could not reach the burning houses because of the crowd. Many Christian houses and shops were destroyed.
Meanwhile, yesterday morning Mo'edh died in hospital. A "bearded" (a Muslim brother or a Salafist) warned Christians that in the evening (yesterday), after the funeral, they would return and would burned the church and all Christian homes, killing people at will. Some 120 Christian families fled fearing a massacre.
Meanwhile, Sameh Sami, his father and brother were arrested on charges of "manslaughter". "As usual in Egypt - comments a believer - the victim, a Copt, is put in jail."
22 year-old university student Sayed Hamam from Dahshour, explains that the man's family, law enforcement and the Christian pastor is trying to find a compromise to restore calm in the village. Sayed said that the young employee of the dry cleaner, his father and brother were immediately arrested for illegal possession of explosives and premeditated murder. Five Muslims, believed responsible for violence against the Copts homes, are being hunted by police.
According to the youngman, the violence also erupted due to the inertia of the security forces, which did nothing to stop the fires and looting. The pastor of Dahshour says that the police intervened after almost an hour into the fighting, by which time most of the buildings were burned and Christian families fled.
The Egyptian police are often accused of not intervening or complicity with Muslim violence. A video posted some time ago on Youtube demonstrates an attack on a church in Aswan (see: 05/10/2011 Attacks against Coptic churches, part of a plan to expel Egypt's Christians). The video shows the violence of Muslims and the impotence of the police (for the video click here).